By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — Karen Richards is almost 65-years-old and she often sees people her age taken advantage of by both family members and strangers.
“I feel passionate about this because we need to protect these people, and more serious problems will occur if a change isn’t made,” she told the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary Thursday. “This is a population that is growing exponentially over the next few years.”
Richards has been the Allen County prosecutor since 2003 and tries Adult Protective Services cases. She spoke to the committee Thursday asking them to rehear prior legislation and to give more funds to APS.
The issue is before the study committee because in the 2017 session, Senate Bill 345 was proposed. It would have given financial institutions the right to release certain financial records to a law enforcement agency or adult protective services if the financial institution suspects illegal activity in connection with an endangered adult.
“We are seeing checks drawn on grandma’s checking account that shouldn’t be on grandma’s checking account,” Richards said. “Many banks don’t have offices in the state of Indiana so they won’t grant a subpoena, so we need another way.”
As Richards encouraged the committee to rehear the bill in 2018, Rep. Thomas Washburne, R-Inglefield, who killed the bill in 2017, spoke out against it.
“If you are going to look at their financial information without a subpoena, that’s a problem,” he said. “We aren’t allowed to do unreasonable search and seizure.”
Washburne argued during the 2017 session and at Thursday’s meeting that if a family thinks a transaction is unauthorized that they should fill out a police report like every other person who has had problems with financial information being stolen. SB 345 goes against the Constitution, he said.
“People have an expectation to the privacy of financial account records,” he said. “You wouldn’t want me to beat down my neighbor’s door because I suspect elder abuse might happen next week and then find the instrument I suspected it to happen with and take it to you.”
However, financial crimes against elderly aren’t just by family members.
“There are folks that go around to each patient in a nursing home and skim $100 or $200 of every person from every account during every month,” Richards said. “The funds add up.”
In order for APS to properly find who is guilty and charge them correctly, it would like to have a staff made up of an attorney, investigator and forensic accountant to follow the money. APS proposed $326,000 to take care of investigations statewide.
Richards said she will keep fighting for the rights and safety of endangered adults.
“My overall job is to advocate for people who can’t advocate for themselves,” she said. “If we don’t do what we need to do, and protect them, we will have people dying.”
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.